Erica Harper is forcing her sixth graders at "Bel Aire Elementary" to work even harder. She's preparing them for the upcoming state tests that will gauge how well they're doing in Reading, Language Arts and Math.
"You're going to see this again in May, in the spring folks, on the MCT-2," Harper told her students during a reading lesson.
"Yes, it's very stressful," she said. "The level of difficulty of the test has increased, so everything has to increase. Homework, class work, everything has to be more difficult."
"The teachers are feeling the pressure, the principals are feeling the pressure, all the administration are feeling the pressure. We're putting the heat on," said Harrison County School Superintendent Henry Arledge.
Arledge says students are now required to learn new skills and objectives at an earlier age. He's concerned the rigorous requirements will make it harder for students to catch up in class. And he tells parents, don't be surprised if test scores drop.
"The questions compared last year to this year have changed so drastically, so it's making a lot of kids concerned. A lot of parents are concerned about it," Arledge said. "It's such a shock and so much work on the teachers. They're becoming frustrated."
Arledge says it will take a few years for students to adjust to the new achievement levels. Teachers have no choice. They just have to keep pushing their students to meet the challenge.
"Set expectations this high, and they will meet those," Harper said. When asked if she is worried about her students' performance on the test, Harper smiled and said "Not at all."
The Subject Area Tests for middle and high school students will also be harder this year. On top of that, schools are facing tougher "No Child Left Behind" federal growth standards.